The Latest Global Warming Scare: Horny Bees Wont Pollinate

The Latest Global Warming Scare: Horny Bees Wont Pollinate

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) – famed in climate change ‘denier’ circles as the institution that brought us the Climategate email scandal – have found that climate change affects the ability of a solitary bee species to pollinate the Early Spider Orchid, taking this as an indication that all insect pollination strategies will cease to function in warmer temperatures thus spelling the end of agriculture as we know it. (H/T Watts Up With That)

The researchers reached their conclusions by comparing museum specimens of the solitary bee Andrena nigroaenea to records of the flowering time of the Spider Orchid, against Met Office Climate records. They found that whilst warmer springs brought forward the emergence of both species, it affected the bees more than the flowers. Consequently, by the time the flowers were ready to receive pollen, the male bees were too involved in females of their own species to do their pollinating work.

From this evidence, the researchers have made a huge leap of inference, claiming that the results suggest calamitous implications for agriculture.

Researcher Dr Karen Robbirt from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences said: “These orchids have evolved so that when Spring comes, their flowers appear at the same time as this specific bee – making pollination possible. But we have shown that plants and their pollinators show different responses to climate change, and that warming will widen the timeline between bees and flowers emerging. If replicated in less specific systems, this could have severe implications for crop productivity.”

However, less specific systems are generally more robust. Many crop plants such as cashews, peppers and strawberries use a huge range of species to aid in pollination, including a variety of bees, hoverflies, and even birds and bats. This strategy ensures that, if one or even two species are affected by the warmer weather in a way that is disadvantageous to the plant, others are likely to step in to fill the role.

This hasn’t stopped the UEA researchers making dire predictions about the effects of climate change on insect pollination systems. Lead researcher Prof Anthony Davy said: “Warming by as little as 2C causes the males to emerge much earlier, meaning they are less well synchronised with the orchids.

“The problem is compounded by the female bees which are also emerging earlier, and attracting the attention of the male bees. This means that the male bees are more likely to copulate with the female bees, rather than pollinating the orchids.

“There will be progressive disruption of pollination systems with climatic warming, which could lead to the breakdown of co-evolved interactions between species because they either respond either to different seasonal cues, or to the same cues at different rates.”

Others are less convinced that the research paper’s results necessarily spell disaster.

“What can I say – the compelling conclusion of this study can only be disputed if you refuse to believe that happy, well satisfied bees are a sign of the end times,” said Eric Worrall, a contributor at Watts Up With That.


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